Great - but maybe not for all types of music
Posted by JoeCanadianGuy from near Toronto, Canada on 2012-03-16
Sennheiser HD 650
transparent, clean mids and highs
overdone upper bass/low mids
After my son borrowed my decades-old AKG 400s and carefully avoided returning them for many months, I decided to give him and me a break and get myself something new. I decided on the new Senn 598s after reading a few reviews. Why those? My bald, thick head was looking for a comfortable fit and my ears were hoping for a neutral balance that did not fry eardrums with gritty highs. However there was a production shortage of that model and so I settled on upgrading to the 650s plus Total Bithead amp.
I find that most pop/rock music is EQ'd heavily for "warmth" or "body" in upper bass/lower mids. This effect is accentuated with the 650s, giving the overall balance a downward tilt and the sense that the highs are veiled. This is not the case, because the mids and highs on this model are actually very neutral with a good sense of real instruments and voices. There is never any artificial sizzle to cymbals or sibilance in voices. The bulge in the lows, however, tends to muddy the mids on most pop recordings. It can fixed by holding the phones slightly away from the ears, but I'm not about to sit there doing that all night. Hey now there's an accessory idea for some young enterpreneur to develop!
The balance and transparency are excellent with acoustic, well-recorded jazz, singer-songwiter, and classical music, especially any bass-light music that benefits from a bit of warmth. So that explains all the high ratings for this model from Stereophile and other golden-eared reviewers who tend to gravitate to acoustic music.
The upper bass hump was reduced a bit after some break-in time, but I think I'll have to get some kind of EQ software for my PC to reduce the upper bass (any suggestions for good parametric EQ software, anyone?).
The phones were a bit tight for my wide head, but the cushions were very velvety, and bending the metal part of the headband very (very very) gently and occasionally near the earpieces has helped alleviate the clamping effect over time.
As for the Bithead amp, it does offer a minor overall improvement in transparency through the USB input, though I might have found even a bigger difference with one of the pricier amps. I have never found the need for the boost in gain that this amp provides, so there's no need to get one for that reason only, despite what many reviewers caution about lack of gain with these high impedence 650s. My laptops and even my iPhone seem to provide plenty of volume for normal istening. The crossfeed circuit is a good reason to get a Headroom amp, giving a subtle effect, especially on older, overly-separated recordings, and the circuit doesn't seem to affect clarity.
Anyway, I find myself listening through the 650s for long periods of time and forgetting they're there, so that says a lot.
If you're looking to buy, I hope this helps you make the right decision.
Look & Feel
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